A Poem is Not a Teddy Bear

By Clint Margrave
–after Tony Hoagland and for him

Nor is it polite, or pretty, or politically correct.
A poem is not a liberal or a Democrat.
A poem is not a Republican either, or a Libertarian.
A poem is not from a particular region of France
or from the East or West.
A poem is not black or white or Scandinavian.
A poem gets angry, feels contempt, lies sometimes.
You can’t hold it close to your chest
or snuggle up to it.
A poem is not running for president.
It doesn’t need your vote or want to be your friend.
A poem is a ferocious animal, drool dripping
down its chin—
not a blanky to take to grandma’s house
or a tissue to wipe your nose with.
A poem is not a teddy bear,
but if it were would come unstitched,
dragged too often in the dirt,
too many nights forgotten in the wet cold,
abandoned, decapitated, dumped off,
or chewed up in games of tug of war.
The kind you keep banished to your closet
once you’ve grown,
cover up its foul old stench
with elegant perfumes and colognes.
The kind that in the minds of others does not exist,
that’s been kept hidden so long
scares the shit out of you
when the light from outside shines in,
and you forget what it is.

from The Early Death of Men, NYQ Books, 2012.

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